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‘Flawed’ test and trace system forces bar closures

Hospitality trade groups across the UK have called for the urgent review of test and trace guidelines, characterising them as ‘massively disruptive’ for businesses.

Hospitality groups are demanding the amendment of test and trace guidelines

Trade groups UK Hospitality (UKH) and the Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) have separately asked for government action concerning the test and trace systems in the UK.

The current guidelines require those who have tested positive for Covid-19, or come into ‘close’ contact with someone who has tested positive, to self-isolate for 10 day when instructed through the NHS app. These rules have led to venue closures and reduced opening hours, the trade bodies stated.

Stephen Montgomery, SHG spokesperson, said of Scotland’s Test and Protect guidance: “As a system, it’s severely testing and it’s not necessarily protecting. There are two camps currently within Scottish hospitality, premises that are closed or those that will have to close. No one will escape it and it’s primarily due to system delays.”

Montgomery noted that closure can cost an average-sized business £15,000, “with much-needed turnover being lost”. He asked for financial compensation from the Scottish government for businesses that closed due to the ‘flawed’ Test and Protect system.

Meanwhile, Kate Nicholls, UK Hospitality chief executive, said that the test and trace system is exacerbating the enormous labour shortage facing the on-trade: For some weeks we have been telling government about the severe staff shortages at venues, compounded massively by the absence of staff members who have been told to isolate despite not having shared shifts with colleagues who tested positive.

“We need urgent clarification of isolation policy to reflect the enormous success of the vaccine roll out and we urge the cabinet office to amend the current isolation policy as soon as possible, and certainly ahead of the 19th July [when remaining restrictions are set to be lifted], to address the challenges of the current system.”

She proposed extending the ‘test to remain’ system to vaccinated members of the hospitality industry, which would allow people who test negative for Covid-19 to continue working.

“That would avoid businesses being forced to close, losing thousands of pounds of revenue at a time when cash reserves are low or non-existent following 16 months of closure and punitive trading restrictions,” she commented.

According to Nicholls, the current test and trace system could have an even more devastating impact on the industry by triggering “vast swathes of the population” to isolate.

“If the system remains as it is, there’s a threat of mass isolations, which would hugely damage trade, putting many companies at risk of failure,” she said.

“A strong focus on testing when cases are identified, rather than isolating fit and healthy people, would help to avoid mass isolations.”

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